Comics Reviews: Superman 401, Action 561, DC Comics Presents 75, All-Star Squadron 39, Infinity Inc. 8

Superman 401 coverSuperman #401 – “Operation: False Front” – Cary Bates/Curt Swan/Bob Oksner

This one begins with the nightly broadcast of WGBS news being interrupted by a couple of Lex Luthor’s henchmen, who just happen to be joined at the hip. Clark Kent stands up to them and gets slapped down (or pretends to, to hide his super-powers) and the thugs relay a message on air for Superman from Luthor, who challenges the Man of Steel to meet him 5,000 feet above Metropolis at noon tomorrow … or Luthor will do something terrible. Back on his island hideout, Luthor (who’s in telepathic contact with his men) observes the broadcast, planning his next move. He calculates that Superman will try to follow the henchmen from WGBS back to Luthor’s lair,Superman trapped in warsuit so he sends his green Warsuit (which he’s programmed with artificial intelligence) out to meet Superman. Luthor’s prediction is right and Superman follows the two henchmen right into a trap. The Warsuit generates an illusion to lure Superman in, then jumps him and generates an explosion large enough to stun Superman. When he wakes up, he realizes how diabolical Luthor’s plan really is … Superman is stuck inside the Warsuit. He tries to smash the suit by flying into a mountain, but it’s too solid to break. He tries his heat vision, but the suit emits red sun radiation and Superman realizes it’s been programmed to zap him with red sun rays if he does anything that might break him free. Luthor Jimmy thinks Luthor is messing with himhas cameras and microphones throughout the suit and taunts Superman with how he’s bested him. When Supes tries to fly into space, out of range of Luthor’s devices, the red sun radiation starts up again and he’s forced to return to Earth. Superman considers going to the Fortress of Solitude, but doesn’t want Luthor gleaning all its secrets, so he heads to Metropolis to ask Jimmy Olsen for help. Unfortunately, Luthor has one more trick up his sleeve … the suit generates a holographic representation of Luthor’s face (and voice), so Jimmy sees Luthor flying into his apartment, not Superman. So when Superman tries to explain what’s happening, Jimmy only sees Luthor talking a bunch of crazy bullshit about being Superman. Supes finally realizes Jimmy won’t believe him, so he gets pissed off and blasts Jimmy’s wall with his heat vision before taking off.Trogar fights Super-Lex Luthor gives Superman an extra-heavy dose of red sun rays, telling him to stay away from his friends in case he somehow manages to let them know the truth. We see that Luthor is too late, as the heat vision blast was a cover for Superman to etch a message into Jimmy’s wall in Kryptonese. Jimmy’s no scholar, but he’s somewhat familiar with the language and starts translating it. A couple days later, a giant Viking-type warrior named Trogar shows up and threatens to demolish the Galaxy Building if Superman doesn’t show up and fight him. Superman does show up (still wearing the Warsuit), but thanks to Luthor’s machinations, everyone sees Luthor confronting Trogar. Supes really plays it up, pretending to be Luthor and announcing himself as Superman’s pal warsuit disappears and Supergirl reveals herselfwho’s going to pound Trogar on Superman’s behalf. That pisses Luthor off and he immediately teleports the Warsuit back to his hideout, revealing Superman to everyone watching. But there’s another revelation coming … Trogar is actually Supergirl inside some big-ass body armour. Superman’s message told Jimmy to contact Supergirl and what to tell her to do, and their plan worked because Superman knew Luthor’s vanity would never allow people to believe he and Superman were friendly. But Luthor didn’t completely lose this encounter … his Warsuit took hundreds of readings of Superman’s physiology, which Luthor figures may come in handy for their next clash.

Action 561 coverAction #561 – “The Great Toyman Trivia Contest” – Paul Kupperberg/Kurt Schaffenberger/Dennis Jensen

This one starts with Toyman being released from prison and telling the guard he’s going to go straight … in fact, he already has a legitimate line of work picked out. A few weeks later, Lana Lang shows Clark Kent a front page headline about Toyman putting on a new game show: The Great Toyman Trivia Contest, where contestants can answer questions to possibly win a million dollars. Clark is intrigued and goes to interview Toyman, who swears he just wants to give something back to the public to make up for all his misdeeds. Clark’s super-hearing can detect Toyman’s heartbeat and he doesn’t seem to be lying, but Clark resolves to keep a close eye on Toyman’s show anyway. That night, Superman drops by Inspector Henderson’s officeToyman's trivia show at the police station to watch the show with him. Toyman’s show is kinda like Who Wants to be a Millionaire? or maybe Deal or No Deal. People answer questions over five consecutive nights and the ones with the highest scores can choose to answer the ultimate question for $1,000,000. The twist is that all the questions are about Toyman himself. As the week goes by, various people win money but only three end up on the final show, ready to play for the million. Unfortunately, Toyman’s final question is pretty esoteric: what was the first toy he ever made? None of the finalists know the answer, so Toyman opens it up to the audience, saying anyone who knows the answer will win the million dollars. A shabby-looking dude in the audience answers correctly Toyman goes after Chester(Toyman’s first toy was a model plane made of balsa wood), but the “winner” is dragged backstage by some animated toy dolls. Superman has been watching closely all week and goes to find the victim. Turns out the guy is an ex-friend of Toyman’s (Chester Dunholtz), who stole Toyman’s first toy, the balsa plane. Now Toyman wants it back to put in a museum he’s constructing and he figured the million dollar prize would get Chester’s attention. Chester won’t give him the plane, so Toyman brings in his army of murderous toys to persuade him. Superman shows up to save Chester, who tells Toyman he threw the plane in the garbage years ago. Toyman is despondent and Chester figures he owes him a million bucks. But Superman reveals that the three finalists on Toyman’s show were animatronic robots, meaning the whole thing was a sham and therefore Chester’s “win” is meaningless.

“The Past and Future Superman” – E. Nelson Bridwell/Wayne Boring/Dave Hunt

This is a goofy little back-up story about Superman being split into threeSuperman reintegrates into one guy selves by Red Kryptonite (which has a different effect every time he encounters it, but it’s always something weird). One Superman is the present version, one is Superboy from twenty years ago, and one is from the future and has different powers. While waiting for the Red K to wear off, they engage in various adventures and after they merge back into one Man of Steel, he realizes how inexperienced his younger version was and how the future Superman depended too much on his new powers instead of relying on the old ones.

DC Comics Presents 75 coverDC Comics Presents #75 – “Partners in Time” – Paul Kupperberg/Tom Mandrake

This one starts with a strange meteorite streaking out of the sky toward Metropolis. Naturally, Superman tries to intercept it, but the meteorite dodges around him before stopping of its own accord near the ground. It turns out not to be a meteorite but a man … Arion, Lord of Atlantis, and he’s not in a good mood. He was apparently fighting some evil demon (Chaon) in his own era and was flung through time to the present. Arion’s sword is strong enough to knock Superman on his ass, but Supes recognizes Arion’s language as a version of Atlantean and tries to communicate. Arion realizes what Superman’s doing and uses his magic (which is quite weak in this era) to enchant a couple ofArion figures out a way to communicate cheap earrings taken from a street vendor. (They’re clip-ons, so Supes doesn’t have to get his ear pierced.) That works like a universal translator, allowing them to speak. (Arion pays the vendor by turning a Pepsi can into solid gold.) Supes and Arion compare notes, although Superman doesn’t mention that Atlantis was destroyed millennia ago. Arion tells Superman how he and his friends were fighting the demon Chaon, who planned to wipe out the entire planet during a lunar eclipse. When Arion tried to stop him, he was sent here to the future. Superman mentions there’s an eclipse tonight too and Arion thinks that’s too much of a coincidence. Superman offers to fly demons in the timestreamArion back through time, but Chaon detects their passage and sends demonic creatures into the time-stream to block them. Since Arion’s magic is weak and Superman is vulnerable to magic, they’re forced to turn around and go back to Superman’s era. Arion says they might use magic to pierce the veil of time and his tower in Atlantis might still contain such magic, so Superman takes him to the ruins of Atlantis. Arion is overwhelmed by the decay of the once-great empire and Superman doesn’t tell him how the Atlanteans evolved into mer-people to live under the sea. They find Arion’s old tower, still protected by magic, and Arion pulls out the last of the crystals he uses to summon his father’s spirit. Arion’s father grants him the power he needs, but Chaon’sSuperman and Arion confront Chaon demons burst in to stop him from casting the proper spell. Superman holds them off as best he can, while Arion opens a portal to Darkworld, a realm outside of time. Arion and Superman go through Darkworld to get around the demons in the time-stream, emerging in ancient Atlantis just as the eclipse begins. Superman blocks the light from reaching Chaon’s pentagram, giving Arion time to blast the demon, knocking him into the pentagram where he disappears. Superman is thrown through Arion’s portal back to his own time, while Arion seems to forget everything that he learned in the future.

All-Star Squadron 39 coverAll-Star Squadron #39 – “Nobody Gets Out of Paradise Valley Alive” – Roy Thomas/Rick Hoberg/Bill Collins

Last issue, the All-Stars found out their friend Will (Amazing Man) Everett was involved in a fight in Detroit when a bunch of racist assholes tried to prevent black people from moving into new houses they’d legally rented. Five All-Stars (Liberty Belle, Firebrand, Johnny Quick, Robotman, and Hourman) head to Detroit to look for Will and hopefully prevent any more trouble. They run into some racists at a diner, but hold back from pounding them all. They do learn about a rally of the Phantom Empire (led by the so-called Real American, a racist in a flag-inspired costume), so while Belle and Johnny go looking for Will, the others head over to the “whites only” rally. It’s easy to find … they just follow the burning cross. The trio find Realheading to the rally American spewing a bunch of crap about keeping black people from moving into the homes they’ve rented and the crowd is lapping it up (except for one guy who objects, but he gets tossed out on his ass pretty fast). Johnny and Belle don’t find Will, but they do run into his fiancée (Rachel), who tells them she’s worried about Will. Will’s mom is there too and she says Will and his dad went to the new Sojourner Truth houses to make sure nobody stops their fellow African Americans from moving in. Liberty Belle points out they have the legal right to live there, but Rachel says she’s stupid and that the racists will kill all of them before they let any black people move in. She mentions Rachel getting madthe march on Washington the previous year organized by A. Philip Randolph, who was talked out of it at the last minute by Eleanor Roosevelt. President Roosevelt gave a half-assed speech and created a useless committee and that was that. Rachel is understandably pissed off, but Belle and Johnny promise they’ll do what they can to help Will and his father. They change back to their civilian identities (journalists Libby Lawrence and Johnny Chambers) and run into a racist woman who accuses Libby of being a Commie because she’s against racism. Meanwhile, Will Everett’s dad (Jake) approaches the new houses in his van full of furniture. When the racist mob stops him (and tries to loot the van … so much for their pure motives), theyAll-Star riot control find Amazing Man waiting in the back to kick their asses. That starts a big brawl, with the All-Stars trying to separate the two sides, and the cops showing a clear bias in favour of the white racists. Just when they finally get everyone separated, Real American shows up, spouting more racist crap. Firebrand and Amazing man both notice something strange about Real American’s voice, almost like he’s hypnotically compelling people to do what he says. When he and Amazing Man fight, Real American forces Amazing Man to change from his steel-form back into flesh, making him look bad in front of the crowd. Johnny tries to keep Amazing Man from going in for another round and Amazing Man bested by Real AmericanAmazing Man decks him. Someone knocks Amazing Man out with a two-by-four and the cops haul him away. Jake Everett gives the All-Stars shit for not doing more to help his son and when they point out that Amazing Man did technically break the law by attacking the mob, Jake figures they don’t give a damn about real justice. Meanwhile in Washington, Green Lantern and Hawkman beg Roosevelt to do something about the racial tensions in Detroit, but Roosevelt insists it’s a local matter, so Hawkman and GL head for Detroit to see if they can help.

Noticeable Things:

  • The Phantom Empire is a made-up organization, but during one of his hate-mongering speeches, Real American mentions the real-life KKK and Black Legion.

Infinity Inc. 8 coverInfinity Inc. #8 – “Atomic Dreams—Nuclear Nightmares” – Roy Thomas/Jerry Ordway/Mike Machlan, Tony DeZuniga

Last issue, Wonder Woman and Hawkman (two of the eight JSAers affected by Koehaha, the Stream of Ruthlessness) clashed over some Egyptian artifacts and when Steve Trevor arrived, he was slammed by some rubble. Steve’s not dead, but he’s hurt and Wonder Woman wants to take him to paradise Island for healing. When Fury and Silver Scarab try to stop her, he tosses them around like nothing before taking off with Steve in her invisible plane. Northwind saves Fury from falling to her death and he and Scarab tie Hawkman up. Silver scarab wonders if Ultra-Humanite is the one who turned the JSAers evil and takes Fury with him to investigate, leaving Northwind to look after Hawkman. Back in Fall Springs, Colorado,Green Lantern takes over the airwaves Flash is recovering from the beating Wonder Woman gave him and trying to deal with the small-town politics of the mayor and police chief. Dr. Mid-Nite and Shiera Hall come to visit and share their worries about the Infinitors taking on the evil JSA members. The police chief shows them a news report about Superman pounding Power Girl in Metropolis and Huntress capturing Robin in Gotham. The report is interrupted by Green Lantern, who has taken over all communications satellites so he can control any TV broadcast in the world. Dr. Mid-Nite has whipped up an antidote to the JSA’s evil natures and tells Flash and Shiera that the waters of the Koehaha are addictive, so the afflicted heroes will return for another dose. The sheriff offers to take Nuklon gets advice from TerriMid-Nite and Shiera to the Koehaha to wait … and hopefully use the antidote to cure their friends. Back east, jade and Obsidian head out into space, thinking Green Lantern (who they believe to be their father) is probably aboard a satellite. Nuklon calls his mom (Terri Rothstein) to tell her about Atom being affected by the Koehaha and asks her what Atom might do next. Terri says Atom was always obsessed with being stronger and mentions he once experimented with thorium as a way to increase his strength (before he got his super-powers, of course). The only place she knows that has thorium around is a nuclear plant in Utah, so Wildcat and Nuklon head out there. Sure enough, Atom shows up and storms the place looking to augment his strength. But Terri called ahead to warn them, so they’ve shut down the thorium ray. Atom is pissed off and pounds Wildcat and Nuklon beforeAtom buries Nuklon under machinery forcing the scientists to reactivate the ray. Nuklon pushes Atom out of the thorium ray’s path, taking a heavy dose himself. Atom actually seems worried about his godson, pulling him to safety. But when Nuklon tries to stop Atom from using the thorium ray again, Atom turns back into an asshole, burying Nuklon under a ton of machinery. From his hidden lair, Ultra-Humanite watches everything, gloating at the thought of another JSA member killing their progeny. But outside, Dr. Mid-Nite, Shiera, and the sheriff find a vent that tells them they’re getting close to Ultra’s hideout.

Noticeable Things:

  • The sheriff tells Dr. Mid-Nite and Shiera that the Koehaha is located near Wolverton Mountain, which is also the name of an old country song.
  • The nuclear reactor Wildcat and Nuklon go to is in Bails City, named after longtime JSA fan Jerry Bails.

4 thoughts on “Comics Reviews: Superman 401, Action 561, DC Comics Presents 75, All-Star Squadron 39, Infinity Inc. 8”

  1. This one was a strange issue (the Action comic) I have always liked the Toyman, but even as a kid, it seemed REALLY out there for someone to build lifelike androids to be on a game show just to entrap someone who stole their first toy when they were kids. I mean, the whole revenge on a childhood thief/bully seems plausible enough (for a comic book villain), but surely there were simply ways of tracking him down?

    1. Yeah, with all his resources, you’d think Toyman could’ve found him earlier. And then to just basically forget about it after all that effort … it’s a very Silver Age story.

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